With Mayor Anthony A. Williams limping and quacking toward 2007, attendance was way down at his fourth and final citizen summit.
By official estimates, a few more than 2,000 people showed up at the Washington Convention Center last weekend to offer their thoughts on youth development, job training, public libraries and affordable housing. That's a big drop from past summits (in 1999, 2001 and 2003), when as many as 3,500 people clamored to help the mayor set spending priorities.
Williams (D) said he was by no means disappointed by the size of the crowd.
"Being that I announced I'm not running again and this is my seventh year as mayor, to be honest with you, I'm happy with the turnout, because I was worried that people wouldn't show up," he told reporters.
Williams rejected a suggestion, by DCWatch executive director Dorothy Brizill, that his hectic travel schedule had left him with little time to publicly tout the event. Williams defended his frequent trips out of town on behalf of the National League of Cities (NLC), saying his year-long presidency of that organization created an opportunity to explain to municipal officials across the nation "the history of Washington, D.C., and how we don't have a vote" in Congress. "I think that's been good for the city and laid the groundwork for my successor," he said.
Still, enough is enough. And after handing over the reins of the NLC next month in Charlotte, N.C., Williams said, he expects to spend much more time at home.
"What I plan on doing now in the next year is to be really involved here in the city," he said.
Brown Endorses Cropp
Freshman council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) has endorsed council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) for mayor.
He chose Cropp over opponent Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), even though Fenty endorsed Brown during his uphill race two years ago against incumbent Harold Brazil.
In a press release issued by the Cropp campaign, Brown was quoted saying that Cropp has a vision for the future and "the competence to make it happen."
Ouch. The competence line was aimed straight at Fenty, whom the Cropp campaign is trying to paint as a legislative lightweight.
One small thing the press release left out: Brown's father, Marshall Brown, is on the Cropp campaign payroll.
Brown, whom the release described as "an able legislator,'' will focus on youth outreach for the campaign.
He Walks the Line
Mayor Williams has nominated former New Jersey prison chief Devon Brown to be director of the D.C. Department of Corrections. Brown was an executive in the D.C. and Maryland prison systems before decamping to the Garden State. He has a reputation as a no-nonsense administrator who actually cares about inmate rehabilitation.
Brown also holds a fistful of advanced degrees and is considered to be smart but aloof -- does it sound like someone else we know? Maybe Brown also wears bow ties.
He has a penchant for saying things that make politicians go "gulp!'' During routine budget hearings earlier this year, he nonchalantly told New Jersey lawmakers that former governor James McGreevey had forced him to hire 14 political patronage employees whose salaries came to $867,000 a year, according to The Record of Hackensack, N.J.
The D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee has scheduled Brown's confirmation hearing for Nov. 29.
The continuing feud between council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and the Rev. Willie F. Wilson will not rest during the holidays. It seems no amount of homemade gravy can drown the grievances between these two Ward 8 allies-turned-enemies.
The blood is so bad that Barry changed the venue of his annual Thanksgiving dinner for the elderly and the homeless from Wilson's Union Temple Baptist Church to Matthew Memorial Baptist Church.
When last we left these two, they were saying mean things to each other in a parking lot across from Wilson's church, where Barry had arranged for a demonstration of a machine that reportedly turns garbage and sewage into energy and drinking water.
Wilson was upset about the event: He reportedly was afraid the contraption would blow up. E. Faye Williams, a Barry council aide and chairman of the National Congress of Black Women, said he padlocked the parking lot, trapping her and some energy workers.
"He locked me up when I was simply doing my job,'' Williams said.
On the video, Wilson could be heard telling Williams, "Shut your mouth up.''
The video of Wilson pointing his finger and being restrained by D.C. police officers is being circulated among African American political activists around the country at a time when Wilson is supposed to be building the Millions More Movement.
Wilson's church was once a hub for political activity. But that might soon be changing in the wake of Wilson's recent actions, which include feuding with Barry, allegedly locking up Williams and refusing to let gay activist Keith Boykin speak at the Washington D.C. rally of the Millions More Movement. His recent rants about teenage lesbians also have people scratching their heads.
Meanwhile Williams, who is succeeding former representative Shirley Chisholm and C. Delores Tucker at the Congress of Black Women, is trying to stay above the fracas.
"I hope that Mr. Barry and Reverend Wilson can reconcile their differences," she said.
Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.